Further Reading

If you are interested in the foundation documents of the Fellowship of Contemplative Prayer, there are books written by the founder of the Fellowship, Robert Coulson. These, and others listed at the foot of this page, are available from the Administrator.  The remainder of this webpage features letters from some members of the Fellowship, book recommendations and book reviews which we hope you will find useful on your contemplative journey.


From: The Revd. Canon Martin Tunnicliffe

Occasional Letter No. 31                                                     August 2021

In November, the United Kingdom will be hosting the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) which will take place in Glasgow. There are still some people who do not accept global warming, as I believe that there are still some people who maintain that the world is flat! Let us hope, and pray, that the Glasgow conference will be another spur towards international cooperation in addressing the crisis.


The background to the world climate calamity is spiritual, a lack of understanding that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it” (Psalm 24.1). It is unfortunate that the two words “holy land” have been manipulated into becoming a synonym for a small strip of territory along the Eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. I have recently been using contemplatively the Saying “The place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3.5). It struck me that the words have, literally, hidden depths. They can refer to the ground beneath our feet wherever our feet may be. I know that, in the Bible, they happen to be focussed on a specific moment of God-encounter. But it only requires a modicum of spiritual imagination to accept that, wherever you are on this planet, you are standing on holy ground – holy land. In our God-encounter, whether in solitary prayer, in common worship, or in loving action, we remain earthed, earth-connected: and “the earth is the Lord’s”.

Even the most cursory reading of Genesis chapter one makes it abundantly clear that human beings are created to work with God in caring for the “good” creation (God sees that it is good) which his love-wisdom-power has brought about. Consequently, in our treatment of the natural world, as in our treatment of one another, exploitation is “out” and cooperation is “in”.

Have another look at Genesis 1.26. As John D Crossan says in a recent important book: We humans are image stewards of God. We are created, in other words, to run God’s world with God, through God, and in God…. We owe it to God to run God’s world responsibly. We owe the divine Householder the conservation of the world house; we owe the divine Homemaker the consecration of the earth home. We owe God adequate care of all God’s creation. We owe God collaboration in hallowing God’s name, in establishing God’s kingdom, and in doing God’s will “as in heaven so also on earth.” We owe it to God to cease focussing on heaven, especially in order to avoid focussing on earth.*

This letter is coming a bit earlier than usual. That will give us a little more time to work at the spiritual background to the November conference. We can return to the Saying from Exodus 3.5 from time to time in contemplation. And there are many people to whom we may reflect the Word in intercession, including those who are preparing for the Glasgow conference, planners and administrators, as well as the delegates themselves and their assistants. We should not forget active members of ‘Green’ groups, the media, demonstrators, environment campaigners, and those who are concerned with security. The list is indeed quite a long one.

Blessings to you all in His Name


*  “The Greatest Prayer” – John D Crossan: SPCK 2011


There are many books available on contemplative prayer but the following are written by the Revd Peter Dodson: Peter is well known to many members of the Fellowship, regularly leading groups, Quiet Days and Retreats.

Exploring Contemplative Prayer – a Practical Handbook which is co-written with Revd Martin Tunnicliffe and published by Kevin Mayhew (2005).

The following books by Peter Dodson are also available:

Towards Contemplation– a practical introduction for prayer groups.  Fairacres Publications No 64 (1977).

Contemplating the Word – a practical handbook.  SPCK and Moorhouse (1987).

Embody the Word - Being a Temple of The Holy SpiritTriangle (1989).        

Fire in the Heart - Contemplative Praying and Living. Templum publications (2010), available from the author: jpeterdodson@hotmail.co.uk

Book Reviews

A New Book by Martin Tunnicliffe: Our former Chaplain and General Secretary published his latest book in 2020. Entitled The Rough with the Smooththe book contains articles that he has written during the past twenty years together with illustrations from his own sketchbook.

 The following remarks are contributed by his daughter and appear on the back cover:

What does ‘Sin’ have to do with ‘Archery’, and what happens when we ‘Miss the mark’?  Why should Sermons and Christians not just ‘comfort the afflicted’ but also ‘afflict the comfortable’? Where are Heaven and Hell located, and when is the ‘Word of the Lord’ not the ‘Word of the Lord’?  How is it that we are actually wishing others ‘Wholeness’ or ‘Holiness’ when we say ‘Hello’, and would it be better if NHS stood for National Holiness Service?

Deliberations and ponderings on these and many other fascinating ideas can be found in this collection of articles which aim to both challenge and inspire. 

Martin Tunnicliffe is not afraid to tackle issues such as why a loving God allows pain and suffering, why He/She should “lead us into temptation”, or why Western society should accept its share of responsibility for acts of terrorism.  At the same time, he constantly invites his readers to look beyond the obvious, to peer beneath the surface, and to be aware of their “Sense of more than…” just their usual perception of the world. 

All this is delivered within a framework of strong and uncompromising faith, with manifest erudition and humour.  Oh yes, and a few whimsical, largely unrelated sketches by the author, just to break it up!

Anyone who wants to reserve a copy is invited to contact Martin through the Administrator       admin@contemplative-prayer.org.uk

More recommended books                      

For Lent:                             Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite.

For Advent:                        Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite.

For Lent and Advent:       Treasures of Darkness by Barbara Mosse.

As suggestions for other further reading, a member of the Fellowship has contributed these book reviews.

Journey to the Centre of the Soul by Andrew D. Mayes.

The Revd Canon Dr. Andrew D Mayes is currently Spirituality Adviser to the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and Anglican Priest of Limassol; he has recently been the Spirituality Adviser for the Diocese of Chichester, where he also previously served as Director of Clergy and Lay Training.  He is an international speaker and teaches at the London Centre for Spirituality, as well as leading retreats across the UK.  He is also the author of several books on spirituality. 

In this absorbing and beautifully written book, Andrew Mayes takes us on a journey, exploring both the archaeological and geological sites of the Holy Land, and our life of prayer.    He gives a vivid description of the landscape of the Holy Land; the mountainous terrain, the caves, some underground, (that were lived in and often used as places of prayer), and above all the wilderness and the desert, places where we encounter God and ourselves.

Andrew Mayes got to know the Holy Land when working as course director at St. George’s College Jerusalem and through his ongoing ministry, regularly leading pilgrimages exploring the mountains, the deserts, rivers, and caves.  He uses these places in a fascinating way, to symbolise the spiritual life, and the experiences the contemplative will encounter, encouraging us to discover the riches that can be found within us.  He draws on some of the prophets and the psalms in the Bible and includes the depth of wisdom found in the parables of Jesus in the New Testament.

We learn from luminary contemplatives such as Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross and some of the great medieval saints, who inspire us to go deeper into God.  Andrew Mayes also writes about symbolism of darkness and light; the dark night of the soul; the ascent to God; the solitude of the desert; temptation in the wilderness; entering the cave of our heart; the river of prayer; finding treasures in darkness and the discovery of inner freedom, when we let go of the things that can imprison us, and emerge into the light.

This is a book both for individuals and groups as each chapter finishes with points for reflection/discussion and prayer. It is an invaluable addition to some recent books on the life of prayer and contemplation. Journey to the Centre of the Soul by Andrew D. Mayes was published in 2017, by BRF.  

Into the Silent Land - The Practice of Contemplation by Martin Laird.

This is an exceptional and beautiful book. Martin Laird takes his readers through the practice of contemplation and silent prayer in a fresh, practical way, emphasising the importance of finding the inner place of silence and how to clear the mind of distractions. 

He is particularly helpful when dealing with the distractions, inner fears and anxieties that can hinder us and get in the way, obscuring the silent land within. He explains how one can come to terms with their reality, and overcome them. He gives telling examples, using real life stories of people who have come through their fears and obsessions to discover liberation and freedom. It is by passing through the 'Three Doorways' with the use of the prayer word, that the veil caused by distractions and emotions that so often plague us, is lifted, and the inner, luminous landscape within each human being, is revealed.   Martin Laird also writes about the wound in all human beings that can become a well of compassion, and how it is possible to become a witness as opposed to being a victim.  This book is an absolute gem and will appeal to all who are journeying along the path of contemplative prayer. Into the Silent Land is published by Darton, Longman and Todd.

A Sunlit Absence by Martin Laird

In this companion volume to Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird takes us further on our journey of discovering the 'silent land' within us.  He describes 'the vast and flowing spaciousness that embraces both silence and sound, and transcends all dualisms of subject and object'.  Drawing on the writings of some of the great contemplatives, such as Teresa of Avila and others, he shows 'how we can uncover the deeper levels of awareness that rest within us like buried treasure waiting to be found'.   He goes deeper into solving the distractions that sometimes overwhelm us, and sees our difficulties as 'opportunities to practice surrender to what is'.   With clarity and grace, he shows how we can 'move away from identifying with our turbulent, ever-changing thoughts and emotions to the cultivation of a "sunlit absence",   the luminous awareness in which God's presence can be most profoundly felt'.   This is another beautiful and inspiring book, written with simplicity that we can connect with.    A Sunlit Absence is published by Oxford University Press.

Finding your Hidden Treasure - The Way of Silent Prayer    by Bennignus 0'Rourke 0SA

Bennignus 0'Rourke was an Augustinian Friar and a member of the Community at Clare Priory in Suffolk. He led people in the way of silent prayer for more than 40 years.  

Most chapters in this book are just over a page in length and arranged thematically in sections. Each chapter addresses a crucial threshold along the spiritual path.  The headings of the sections include our ‘Lost Treasure’; ‘Jesus the Teacher Within’, ‘How God heals our Brokenness’, ‘The Fruits of Silence’ and ‘Our Return Journey’.  Father Ben writes ‘The most important journey in life is the journey inward, to the depths of our own being.  It is a journey we are all invited to make. It takes us beyond words and images into silence.  The silence allows the restless mind to become still and in the stillness we enter a new world. We return to our hearts.  Here we find our true selves. We discover an ancient way of finding God that has almost become lost.  Slowly we realise that we are in union with the source of life and love itself; our whole life changes.  Our goal now is to take God's love to others in our everyday lives’.   This is a wonderfully helpful and inspiring book to pick up at any time.  Some members of the FCP have found that it has changed their lives.  Finding Your Hidden Treasure is published by Darton, Longman and Todd. 

On Course in Contemplation
A selection of Robert Coulson's annual letters 1960-1980... [more]
A selection of Robert Coulson's private correspondence... [more]
Into God
By the founder of the Fellowship, Robert Coulson... [more]
The Threefold Reality
By the founder of the Fellowship, Robert Coulson... [more]
I AM: the exercise of supreme sovereignty
By the founder of the Fellowship, Robert Coulson... [more]
Spirit and Life
The official biography of Robert Coulson, written by Martin Tunnicliff... [more]
Within Thy Silence
A successor to More Words for Contemplation, edited by Martin Tunnicli... [more]